Bob Carney in Golf Digest writes about the importance of golf to the greater Detroit community. The last paragraph is the best:
Golf delivers big for these local economies and in Michigan, where majors are played and the Buick Open is a fixture, the impact is huge—especially now. The charity contributions are also significant, of course. Indeed, one might suggest that now is a good time for the other sports look at the golf model to learn how to give more back to communities than they do. Hey, I get that companies taking public money must be prudent. As Golf Digest’s Editor-in-Chief, Jerry Tarde said in his editorial here, golf is the baby in this crisis, not the bathwater. It will be a very difficult baby to rear all over again if we toss it out.
Then there’s the aforementioned editorial by Jerry Tarde. I particularly liked his comments here:
Private enterprise has been involved in golf sponsorship and entertainment for 100 years, not because the boss plays but because it’s good for business. Bank of America officials told the Sports Business Journal that for every $1 spent on sponsorships, $10 in revenue and $3 in earnings is brought in.
Corporate sponsorship is successful because of the attractiveness of the golf audience, the global reach of the product (more than 200 countries), the positive image of our sport and players, and the business-building platform golf provides through pro-ams and entertainment opportunities for customers. It’s not only good for your business, it has a widespread economic impact in communities where the events are played. As one example, the Deutsche Bank Championship on the PGA Tour has been estimated to generate at least $50 million in revenue annually to the region. And by the way, that region happens to be Barney Frank’s voting district.
Then there’s the charity argument. Last year, PGA Tour sponsors donated a record $124 million to charity, $1.4 billion since it began. The golf model should be copied, not pilloried.
Tarde is absolutely right. Corporate managers, being rational beings and responsible to shareholders, would not have sponsored golf events all these years unless they thought they were getting a return on their dollar. Local sponsors would not buy those tents lining the fairways unless they had figured out that it was good for business.
One thing that both of these have overlooked, however, is the impact of golf at the neighborhood level. Golf creates jobs, from greens keepers to rangers, pro shop operators, restaurant personnel, driving ranges, golf cart maintenance crews, and more. Golf tourism dollars in Michigan are critical. The Traverse City area has a marketing initiative that billed them as the “Golf Coast.” The Gaylord Area bills itself (justifiably, given the number of top quality, cheap courses) as America’s Summer Golf Mecca. Other areas have banded together to create Michigan Golf Trails, like the more famous ones in southern states. Golf tourism provides innumerable jobs and much-needed tax dollars for both localities and the state.
On a local level, golf impacts charities too. In Michigan, golf outings are a major fundraiser for schools, churches and other community organizations. I play in four or five a year, each of which has holes sponsored by local businesses, net and gross handicap prizes (donated), and donated prizes for “closest to the pin,“longest drive,” and other shot categories. At least two of those outings are played on courses that donate the tee times. And those are just small fry compared to the big outings held at places like Oakland Hills and other major clubs.
School fundraising auctions always are chock full of donated rounds from local courses (and often from tony private clubs), equipment and lessons. Local courses let high school teams play free, or for drastically reduced prices. Course clubhouses offer facilities for charity events and community meetings. In running some events, I’ve found I get a much better deal from golf courses than from local banquet halls.
Even in these hard times, golf is an integral part of our communities. And while the PGA Tour needs to be more aggressive in making its case, so too do local PGA professionals, and organizations like state golf associations.